"Jefferson Market Library, Part I" Greenwich Village Tip by von.otter
Greenwich Village, New York City: 79 reviews and 197 photos
“At Old Jeff there is also the literature of architecture: cut stone faces and flowers, spiral stairs, soaring stained glass windows, the feeling, form and sensibility of another age. This, too, is the record of civilization.”
— Ada Louise Huxtable, architecture critic, “The New York Times” 28.November.1967 her evaluation of the Jefferson Market Library
Because of its Victorian Gothic style the Jefferson Market Library is sometimes mistaken for a church. Originally this New York City landmark was a courthouse designed by architects Frederick Clark Withers (1828-1901) and Calvert Vaux (1824–1895), who co-designed Central Park with Frederick Law Olmstead. It was built, along with an adjacent prison and market, between 1875 and 1876 at a cost of $360,000. This architectural gem was voted one of the ten most beautiful buildings in America in a poll of architects in the 1880s. The chimneys resembles those found at Henry VIII’s Hampton Court Palace outside London.
A civil court was on the second floor, where the Adult Reading Room is now; and a police court, where now the first-floor Children’s Room now is. The brick-arched basement, now the Reference Room, was used as a holding area for prisoners headed to jail or to trial.
And then there is that clock tower. The firewatcher’s balcony sits one hundred feet above ground. The bell, which once called volunteer firemen to action, still hangs in the tower and rings out the hour during daylight.
After more than 80 years of service as a courthouse, by 1959 the building had been abandoned and was looked upon as an architectural eyesore. The city planned to knock it down and build an apartment building. Village residents, including poet e. e. cummings, who lived across the street in Patchin Place, organized to save the building from the wrecking ball. In 1961, Mayor Robert Wagner announced a plan to preserve and convert the old courthouse into a public library. The preservation and conversion fell to architect Giorgio Cavaglieri, who had adapted the Astor Library on Lafayette Street to become the Public Theatre. Construction began in 1965 and the library opened for business in 1967.
Address: Sixth Avenue & West 10th Street
Directions: Take the #1 subway train to Sheridan Square/Christopher Street stop; walk one block east on Christopher Street or
take the A, B, C, D, E subway train to the West Fourth Street stop; walk north on Sixth Ave. to 10th Street.
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